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Full text of "Reaction to stress and anxiety in chronically underachieving high ability students"

REACTION TO STRESS AND ANXIETY IN 

CHRONICALLY UNDERACHIEVING HIGH 

ABILITY STUDENTS 



By 
MARTIN SUMNER ROSMARIN 



A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF 

THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 

IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE 

DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY 



UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 
April, 1966 



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 

The author wishes to express his appreciation to 
Dr. Audrey S. Schumacher, Chairman of the supervisory 
committee, for the encouragement and help in defining the 
problem area and guiding the preparation of the material. 
The other members of the supervisory committee, Dr. Richard 
J. Anderson, Dr. Benjamin Barger, Dr. J. Milan Kolarik and 
Dr. Robert 0. Stripling were of invaluable assistance in 
refining the proposed research. The author also wishes to 
thank Dr. H. T. Martin, who, while a member of the committee, 
was a constant source of assistance. Finally, the author 
wishes to thank his wife, Aria, who has given so much of 
her interest and energy to this and all other endeavors. 



11 



TABLE OP CONTENTS 



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. . . . 
LIST OP TABLES. . . . 
Chapter 

I. INTRODUCTION. 



111 



Page 
ii 
iv 



Previous relevant research on 

under achievers. . . . , 4 

Related research ... 8 

Rationale 16 

II. METHOD . 19 

Subjects . . 19 

Procedure 23 

Instruments - 24 

III. -RESULTS . 36 

IV. DISCUSSION. 45 

V. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS 69 

BIBLIOGRAPHY. . . ' 73 

APPENDICES. 78 

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 92 



LIS! 1 0? TABLES 
Table 
1 



^£> v 



Summary of t-Tests for Measures of Perceived 

Stress, Measures of Anxiety and Measures of 

He action to Stress 37 

2. t-Tests for the Index of Adjustment and Values . 4-1 

3. t-Tests for the Affect Adjective Check List. . . 4-2 

4-. Summary of Additional t-Tests for the Minnesota 

Multiphasic Personality Inventory 4-3 



IV 



CHAPTER I 
INTRODUCTION 

One of the major educational problems facing the 
nation 3 universities and students alike, is that of 
"academic underachievement. " This is the problem of 
students who fail to perform academically in a manner com- 
mensurate with their estimated ability. A large number of 
young people consistently indicate in a variety of ways 
(aptitude tests, measures of intelligence, teacher ratings, 
etc.) that under usual circumstances they should be able to 
reach an acceptable level of academic output. Many, how- 
ever, fail to do so. 

More strikingly, there are a significant number of 
Intellectually gifted students who, on the basis of their 
performance on measures of aptitude and of past achievement, 
could be expected to display a somewhat better than average 
academic performance. Yet, measured in terms of scholastic 
grades attained and/or overall grade point average, these 
students frequently fail to reach the expected level of 
performance and very often fall below even a mediocre 
performance level. 

It is the intention of this study to focus upon a 
group of high ability underachieving students in whom 



neither intellectual ability nor temporary situational 
factors are important contributors but for whom under- 
achievement is a chronic limitation, 

There is strong support for the belief that many 
students who underachieve academically have been doing so 
for a long time. In a study undertaken to determine the 
onset of academic under achievement in bright children, it 
is stated that, "with regard to male underachievers, it 
would appear reasonable to say that the predisposition to 
underachieve academically is present when the under achiever 
enters school" (Shaw and McCuen i960). Krugman and Impel- 
lizzeri (I960) reporting on work done with 4,900 elementary 
school children in New York City, state: 

It has been found that the third grade is the point 
where reading and other school disabilities become 
serious, and where behavior and other adjustment 
problems begin to become acute. In large numbers of 
cases, it is possible to trace the pattern of an un- 
successful school life to that grade. 

These authors go on to define underachievement as 
'.'...an action pattern with roots in early childhood experi- 
ences, in present home conditions, in family attitudes, in 
self -concept and in character" 

Estimates as to the number of students who could be 
classified as underachievers range from about 20 to 60 per 
cent of the college and high school population. Impelliz- 
zeri's (1961) review of recent studies seems to indicate 



that 40 per cent of high school students who rank in the 
top third of intellectual ability do not enter college and 
of those who do enter, 60 per cent do not finish. Simi- 
larly, Iffert (1957) reports that "the top fifth of the high 
school graduating class contributes 42 per cent of college 
enrollees and 32 per cent of college dropouts." 

At the University of Florida in I960, 33 of every 
100 freshman who ranked in the top half of their class in 
academic potential earned less than a "G" average in their 
first semester. Relatively few of these improved their 
performance in subsequent semesters and the remainder either 
dropped out of school voluntarily or were dismissed for poor 
scholarship. Of the students who succeeded in maintaining a 
"G" average in college, a substantial proportion have the 
potential to obtain a significantly higher grade point 
average . 

One of the major difficulties in the attempts to 
isolate and describe the important variables in academic 
underachievement has been the diversity which characterizes 
the identification of criterion groups. As important, are 
the variations in the definitions of underachievement and 
in the measures used to explore the area (Rarquar 1964). 

Researchers have primarily attempted to identify a 
group of underachievers and a closely matched group of 
achievers and, by using various personality inventories, 



projective tests and personal questionnaires, illuminate 
differences in the groups' personal, academic and social 
behavior. Notwithstanding the frequently contradictory 
findings which result from these studies, there have been 
consistent indications that non-intellective, attitudinal, 
and motivational factors contribute to the student's pattern 
of underachievement. 

Although many attributes and traits of the under- 
achieving student have been described, there seems to have 
been no clear description or evaluation of those high ability 
individuals who manifest a consistent, chronic pattern of 
underachievement 5 as persons who are expressing long standing 
personality patterns or character styles. It is the primary 
aim of this study to utilize this approach. It is important 
to note at the outset that this paper is concerned only with 
academically underachieving students of high ability who 
have manifested this behavior over a period of time. (The 
existence of diverse groups of underachieving students, each 
reflecting differential qualities, has frequently been ob- 
served (Drake 1962, Middleton and Guthrie 1959, and Shaw 
1961A)). 

Previous relevant research on underachievers 

The three studies listed just below point to a 
particularly important aspect of the underachiever 's usual 
behavior. Walsh (1956) in a study dealing with the self- 



5 

concepts of bright under achieving students, observed that 
these people often did not; show what would most certainly 
have been appropriate emotional responses to stressful 
situations. Similarly, McDaniel and Johnson (1962) describe 
the under achiever's reaction to a difficult situation; he 
adopts a "why try" or "who cares 1 ' attitude. In a factor 
analytic approach to the Rorschach configuration of under- 
achieving students, McArthur and King (i960) note a 
"failure, both in capacity to establish rapport and in the 
ability to react to the environment deeply and genuinely." 
This inappropriate "who cares" attitude will presently be- 
more fully discussed and evaluated. 

Continuing with the frequently observed non-intel- 
lective characteristics, Morgan (1952) undertook a psycho- 
metric comparison of two high ability college groups, 
achievers and non-achievers, on several measures including 
the MHPI. He reported that the non-achieving groups scored 
higher on the Pd (psychopathic deviate) scale and lower on 
the Pa (paranoia) scale. The authors conclude that this 
"may indicate (a) callous, socially insensitive, irrespon- 
sible and self-centered individual." Some time later, Gowan 
(1955) referring to high school students, pointed out that, 
"the underachiever tends to be self-sufficient and un- 
sociable ... therefore, harder to reach," 



D 



Hobbs (1952) speaks of the "...incredibly far 
ranging and time absorbing program of activities" of the 
high achieving student as compared to the one who under- 
achieves. However, "it is along the dimension of concentra- 
tion of effort and intensity of purpose, rather than on 
sheer number of activities thai; the groups differ most 
significantly. " 

Again, using the MMPI, Drake (1962) studied the pro- 
files of 1,004 freshmen representing the upper 50 per cent 
of their class in ability at the University of Wisconsin. 
He found that scales 4 (Pd) and 9 (Ma), either alone or in 
combination, were associated with, underachievement. When 5 
(Mf) was eliminated from among the three highest scales, 
the significance of the differentiation increased. Ee also 
found that scales 4- and 9 in. combination are more effective 
in differentiating than either scale alone* The author 
suspects that "low achievement students may represent 
personality reactions," manifested in "defiant, argumenta- 
tive, cocky, snobbish, aggressive, opinionated or belligerent 
behavior,, " 

The self reports of two groups of differentially 
achieving students concerning their personal and social 
adjustment were employed in a study conducted by Morrow and 
Wilson (1961). The investigators administered a question- 
naire which in oart explored peer grout) relations. Under- 



7 

achievers were "described by their- friends as showing a 
negative school-achievement orientation, a negative attitude 
to authority, violations of adult laws and standards, ex- 
citement seeking and dissatisfaction with life," 

• Berger (1961) departed from the usual procedures by 
presenting a scale growing out of observations of a small 
sample of underachieving students seen for counseling. As 
the basis for their under achievement he points to the 
students' unwillingness to accept and incorporate into their 
self-image "the inevitable -human limitations in themselves." 
Berger lists four attitudes which seem to characterize 
underachieving students including (1) an inability to ac- 
cept mistakes or to revise a decision; (2) lack of whole- 
heart edness in their efforts; (3) belief that they should 
achieve at a high level with little effort; (4) unwilling- 
ness to risk being wrong, being disappointed, or doing 
poorly. He concludes that under achievers manifest a "denial 
of wholeheartedness in their efforts.,,," 

One of the most impressive studies in terms of sample 
size and scope was . one carried out by Shaw and his associ- 
ates (1961B). This investigation involved 1,6^6 students 
with I.Q. ' s of 115 and above, from 7^ schools and 1J school 
districts. In addition to I.Q., the students were classi- 
fied as to achievement level, grade level, socio-economic 
level, sex, school, school district, achievement test scores, 



or any combination of these. The Sematic Differential and 
a Q-sort were divided into three subscales (hostility, con- 
formity and self-concept) and administered. Results indicate 
a higher incidence of under achievement among the highest 
socio-economic group; but it was believed that various 
general causes may operate in different socio-economic 
groups. Underachievers are seen as generally more conform- 
ing, displaying more overtly personalized hostility, and as 
having a more negative self-concept. Whereas achievers feel 
inadequate in specific areas, underachievers feel inadequate 
in general. "There is at least a suggestion that this 
general feeling of inadequacy leads to fear of attempting 
anything, that it is better not to try and fail... 



s> 1 



n q 



ome 



ways the under achiever resembles a delinquent especially in 
relation to acting out behavior" (Shaw 1961B). 

The findings which have thus far been reviewed des- 
cribe the underachiever fundamentally in terms of defects 
in his affective responsiveness, and lack of involvement or 
real commitment. 

Related research 

It seems appropriate to attempt to relate the picture 
which has been suggested of the high ability underachieving 
student to two more clearly described clinical syndromes 
identified by Penichel (194-5), and Cleckley (1955). 



9 

Thus far, the picture of chronic under achievement 
which has emerged is that of an individual who quite early 
in his life manifests academic behavior which is maladap- 
tive. In addition, this student is often characterized as 
"socially insensitive," "unsociable," "harder to reach," 
"defiant," lacking "intensity of purpose," adopting a "why 
try," or "who cares" attitude, failing to "react to the 
environment deeply and genuinely" and not showing "appropri- 
ate emotional responses to stressful situations,:" 

Both Fenichel (194-5), and Cleckley (1955) offer 
descriptions of character disturbances which seem -co have 
particular relevance to this characterization of chronic 
under achievement. Fenichel (194-5) notes that a fundamental 
change in the clinical picture of neurosis has occurred 
during the last decade. In the classical neurosis (psycho- 
neurosis) an integrated personality was suddenly disturbed 
oy inadequate actions or impulses. In modern neurosis 
(character neurosis) one deals not with a hitherto uniform 
personality that is disturbed by some immediate event, but 
rather with one that Is "patently torn or malformed"; there 
is no borderline between "personality"' and "symptoms. " In 
a neurosis the symptoms (impulses which break through) are 
"ego-alien" that is, foreign to the integrated personality. 
In a character neurosis the symptom is not ego-alien, the 
defense is more manifest than the impulse. 



10 

According to Fenichel, present-day neurotics have 
personalities restricted by defensive measures, A neurosis 
is initially a breakdown of adjustments which happens 
passively to the ego against its will. Attempts are made 
at adjustment to repair and prevent further breakdown. 
(Some neurotic character attitudes represent an adjustment 
to a neurosis,) Character neurosis involves curtailment of 
the freedom and flexibility of the ego. 

The ego is thus stiffened as protection against un- 
welcome internal or external stimuli and so these individuals 
respond to external stimuli with definite patterns only. 
These ego-restricting modes of behavior are not necessarily 
experienced as alien, the patient may consciously agree 
with them or not even be aware of them. 

The formation of character neurosis corresponds to a 
single definite act of repression so that the neces- 
sity for subsequent separate repressions, consuming 
more energy, and for separate anxiety experiences is 
avoided, ... The once-and-f or-ali type of repression, 
producing chronic changes and hardenings of the 
personality, inhibits the possibility of further de- 
velopment of the ego. Any pathological character 
trait necessarily reduces an individual's actual 
potentialities „ 

Several of the points made by Fenichel have particular 
importance for this study „ In character neurotics (a) the 
defense is more obvious than the symptom; (b) responses to 
environmental stimuli are with definite, ego restricting 
patterns only; and (c) a single act of repression precludes 



the necessity for subsequent anxiety experiences,, It will 
be seen that these factors are especially germane to the 
idea that chronic underachievement may he related to 
character neurosis, 

• Interestingly, some empirical work has appeared which 
deals with a notion that closely resembles Penichel's con- 
cept of character neurosis, This is the notion of "primary 
sociopathy" which was introduced by Cleckley (1955) in his 
book the Mask of Sanity , This term was used to describe a 
diagnostic group whose chief clinical characteristic is 
"the lack of the normal affective accompaniments of experi- 
ence." In addition to some other characteristics, the 
primary sociopath is basically seen as a "biologic organism 
outwardly intact , showing excellent peripheral functions, 
but centrally deficient or disabled in such a way that 
abilities, excellent at only the levels where we can formally 
test them, cannot be utilized consistently...," 

'The empirical support for Cleckley 1 s concept comes 
from an investigation by Lykken (1957). He notes that 
"classification according to the presence or absence of de- 
fective emotional reactivity, satisfies one criterion of 
useful diagnosis in that it shows promise of relationships 
to the as yet unknown origins of the disorder to be dis- 
tinguished" (primary sociopathy). lykken is also aware, 
however, of the difficulty in clinical assessment of the 



12 
''normality of trie affective accompaniments of experience," 
assessments which are unreliable and subjective, ?or this 
reason he chose to consider the defect of primary socio- 
pathy in more operationally defined terras. 

On the basis of a 14 criteria check list developed 
by Cleckley, a number of primary sociopaths were identified 
by Lykken, This group was compared with a group of psycho- 
pathic personalities and one of "normals," under three 
conditions' : response to an anxiety scale, and two condi- 
tioning-learning situations one of which employed the 
galvanic skin response. One of the important results of 
his investigation was that "as compared to normals, the 
experimental group showed significantly less anxiety on a 
questionnaire device" and also displayed "abnormally little 
manifest anxiety in life situations normally conducive to 
this response," a finding not "crue of the other two groups. 
This finding, it should be noted is essentially the same as 
that reported earlier by Walsh (1956) as characteristic of 
the underachieving student , 

It seems feasible to attempt to combine the two con- 
cepts discussed thus far into a statement about a diagnostic 
entity whose presence has only been vaguely noted by clini- 
cians. Basically, an individual has been described whose 
overall functioning is affectively impaired. His response 
to the environment is consistently inappropriate in terms of 



13 

the normal responsiveness to stressful stimuli. The impair- 
ment resulrs in a severely restricted expression of the 
person's basic potentialities. This person fails to react 
with a sense of commitment, and he is uninvolved with his 
world, ■ This is behavior which serves to reduce or exclude 
the perception or experience of disruptive feelings of 
anxiety. 

It is the general hypothesis of this investigation 
that the chronically underachieving student with high ability 
displays, as does the character neurotic and primary socio- 
path, a mode of adjustment or style of life in which he 
distorts his perception and/or experience of the stressful 
aspects of internal and external life, and so manifests 
affectively inappropriate behavior. 

To summarize, there are three specific areas upon 
which this study of the underachiever concentrates; the 
perception of stress, the experience of stress and anxiety 
and the reaction to stress and anxiety. 

One important aspect of the underachiever ' s function- 
ing is how he views the world and people about him. More 
directly, to what extent does he perceive or recognize the 
areas of stress to which all of us are consistently exposed? 
Stress is usually defined in terms of "noxious or potentially 
noxious stimuli" (Langer and Michael 1965). 3agel' s (1953) 
conception of stress seems particularly appropriate, however, 



14 

and will be used in this study. "A stress may be any 
influence, whether- it arises from the internal environment 
or the external environment, which interferes with the 
satisfaction of basic needs or which disturbs or threatens 
to disturb the stable equilibrium." 

One of the frequently overlooked aspects of emotional 
experience is the intensity with which a particular feeling 
impinges on the person. This dimension of experience is 
noteworthy since it in part reflects the degree of emotional 
involvement which an individual manifests in daily living. 
The underachieving student has been seen as probably low 
in this important characteristic. 

Perhaps the simplest use of the term anxiety is that 
of Coleman (1956) who speaks of a "state of emotional tension 
characterized oy apprehension and f earfulness. " Similarly, 
Langer and Michael (1963) write of anxiety as feelings of 
nervousness, worry and restlessness." Welsh (1952) believes 
that when anxiety is experienced we may routinely look for 
complaints of the subjective feelings described generally 
accompanied by somatic concomitants ' such as gastric dis- 
tress, headache and the like. These definitions of anxiety 
seem consistent enough to warrant their use in the present 
study. 

Since the experience of anxiety is such a universally 
accepted notion, it is seen as critically important in a 



15 
group whose primary aim in functioning may be its avoidance. 
Three aspects of the experience of anxiety in underachievers 
in addition to intensity are explored in this study. One of 
these is the self-report of current , ongoing anxiety. This 
refers to how the individual feels at the very time of 
inquiry. A second is his usual subjective feelings of 
anxiety; how the individual consistently views his personal 
feelings. Finally there is the subjective discomfort which 
is said to be implied from a "self-ideal discrepancy." 
Briefly, this is inferred when a subject reports that his 
perception of his present self is not in close agreement 
with the ideal he would like to attain. (Self is defined 
by Symonds (1951) as how a person perceives himself, what 
he thinks of himself and how he values himself.) The ideal- 
self is seen as "the person you would most like within 
yourself to be") (Butler and Haigh 1954)* 

Another measure of the second aspect is the indi- 
viduals usual level and experience of anxiety as indirectly 
measured by a personality inventory. 

The third area of interest is how the underachiever 
sees himself as adjusting and reacting to the stressful and 
anxiety-provoking features of his internal and external en- 
vironment. In this study, a reaction to stress or anxiety 
is viewed as the manner in which the student describes his 
usual behavior. One method of dealing with difficulties is 



16 

to psychologically "internalize" them, internalization is 
felt to have occurred when subjects "have many somatic 
symptoms and subjective feelings of stress" (Welsh, 1952). 
In contrast to this turning inward of concern is the process 
of external izati on wherein subjective discomfort is dis- 
charged by direct action as is seen in extreme form among 
some delinquents and prisoners, A tendency toward external i- 
z at ion. is seen as characterizing the chronic underachiever. 
Other reactions to stress and anxiety which are seen 
as characteristic of the chronic underachiever are social 
and personal imperturbability and arnorality as defined by 
Harris and Lingoes (I960), Social imperturbability is 
manifested in a denial of social anxiety, blandness and a 
denial of dependency needs. Similarly, imperturbability 
is reflected by a denial of sensitivity and a proclamation 
of independence from the opinion of others,. Arnorality is 
the term used by the authors to reflect a callousness about 
one's own motives and ends and about other people, disarming 
frankness, and denial of guilt, 

Rationale 



It is believed that the ways in which an individual 
perceives, experiences and reacts to stimuli represent very 
basic ad justmental functions. A person may react to 



u LLC- 



world about him in a variety of ways, Including an'approori 



a. 



te emotional responsiveness, emotional over—responsiveness 



J- -• ~ > 



17 
and emotional under-responsiveness. Thus, certain responses 
fail within an expected range based on the properties of 
the stimulating event. One would expect, therefore, that 
an adequately functioning (not grossly neurotic or psycho 
individual, involved in the daily events of living, would 
encounter certain stressful incidents, experience some 
feelings of anxiety and respond in an adaptive manner. 

An average college student might well be exposed to 
tolerable stress and anxiety that meaningful involvement 
with one's environment brings ana would, therefore, report 
the existence of' certain stressful stimuli and the experi- 
ence of feelings of anxiety in relation to these and other 
stimulating events. 

In contrast, a student often described in terms of 
his lack of involvement with, the world about him could be 
expected to report the occurrence of far fewer incidents 
of stressful stimuli and much less intense experience of 
anxiety in his daily routine , He would also be expected to 
report his behavior as relatively calm or imperturbable. 

On the basis of the studies previously described, 
the chronically underachieving, high ability student is 
hypothesized to be just such an emotionally unresponsive 
and undemonstrative person, The involvement, and potential 
stress and anxiety, required for successful academic per- 
formance, are avoided and denied by the underachieving high 



18 

ability student by behavior which tends to socially isolate 
and insulate bin. It is these needs for the avoidance and 
denial of stress and anxiety and the display of unconcern 
which is believed to characterise the underact, lever. It 
was for the purpose of testing predictions based on this 
general hypothesis that the present study was undertaken. 
This study, then, will test the following specific 
hypotheses. 

The chronic underachiever of high ability as compared 
to achievers with equal abilitj r will: 

Hypothesis I Perceive less stress in personal and 

social areas. 
Hypothesis II A. Describe his experience in personal and 

social areas as less intense 
3. Have a lower self-ideal discrepancy. 
C Experience less subjective anxiety. 
Hypothesis III 

A. Internalise conflicts and hostility to 

a lesser degree. 

B. Manifest greater social imperturbability. 

C. Respond with greater personal imperturba- 

bility. 

D. Show greater ' amorality.' (callousness 

about ones motives). 



CHAPTER II 
METHOD 

The basic method employed in testing the hypotheses 
about perception of stress, experience of stress and anxiety, 
and reaction to stress and anxiety was the comparison of 
matched groups of high ability underachieving and normally 
achieving college students by means of selected measures of 
these characteristics. These measures will be described 
after formation of the two groups is detailed. 

S ubjects 

The selection of students for Inclusion in the present 
study reflects first the concern for clearly defining and 
delimiting those students who could accurately and legiti- 
mately be called academic under achievers. 

To begin with s the problem of academic underachieve- 
ment is felt by many to be most frequently a male problem. 
Thus, to avoid the complexity of sex-related differences, 
the focus was upon all male students entering the University 
of Florida in the fail trimester. The decision to work 
with incoming freshmen was based on two factors; their 
availability during orientation week and their amenability 
to requests for cooperation in such a program. 

19 



Before the students arrived, a list of all male 
students who had graduated from high schools in Florida the 
preceding June and who had heen accepted by the University 
of Florida was obtained. This list was then reduced to 
those male students who were at or above the 75th percentile 
on the Florida 12th Grade Placement Test, a test which 
measures abiliuy in major academic areas, At this point, 
there were 281 incoming males included on the list of po- 
tential subjects for the study. 

For the purposes of this study, an under achiever was 
someone whose level of ability was at or above the 75th 
percentile as measured by the Florida 12th Grade Placement 
Test and who had achieved a cumulative high school grade 
point average of 2.5 or below (A = 4.0; B = 3,0; G - 2,0; 
D = 1,0), High ability achievers were suudents at or above 
the 75th percentile of ability but who had maintained a 
cumulative high school grade point average of 3,0 or above. 
These cutoff points were chosen in an attempt so heed the 
warning of Shaw and Aives (1963) about the importance of 
eliminating the possibility of overlapping distributions. 
(See Appendix A for the distributions.) With these initial 
criteria^ 53 of the incoming 2S1 high ability students fell 
into the category of under achievers (at or about the 75th 
percentile but below a 2,5 G,?,A.) while 223 were classified 
as high ability achieving students: that is, at or above the 
75th percentile of ability with a G.P.A. of 3-0 or better. 



21 

One of the major impediments to equating control and 
experimental groups fox* achievement in high school arises 
from the differential grading procedures employed by the 
various high schools throughout the state of Florida, To 
circumvent this possible source of contamination of the 
grouping, it was decided to attempt to match underachievers 
with achievers on the basis of high school attended. It 
xtfas found that of the original 58 underachievers identified, 
2? could be matched directly with an achieving student of 
equal ability (as derived from the Florida 12th Grade Place- 
ment Test) and from the same high school,, These students 
who were also matched in regard to age, time of graduation 
and entrance to college constituted the group who were 
administered the experimental procedure, (Ail were first 
admissions to the University of Florida, ) 

Statistical tests reflect no significant difference 
in scholastic aptitude in the two groups as measured by the 
12th Grade Test (Appendix A), Also, there was no difference 
discernible between the groups' performances on the School 
and College Achievement Test (Appendix A). 

There are two points about the selection procedure 
which warrant emphasis at this time; the use of a cumula- 
tive high school grade point average as a criterion measure 
of academic performance was chosen in preference to the use 
of grades achieved by the student in his freshman year at 



22 

college. Employment of a three-year grade point average 
eliminates the chance of including "situational" or "re- 
active" under achievers who perform poorly for a 'short 
period of time (Shaw 1961B). Second, by requiring a large 
discrepancy between ability and performance for the under- 
achieving student, the chance of obtaining spurious results 
due to the statistical "regression effect" (fhorndike 1963) 
was diminished,, 

The foregoing selection and matching procedures then, 
gave two groups of 27 high ability college freshman who 
differed radically in academic achievement. Group I consisted 
of the 2? underachieving students, representative of an 
original sample of 58 underachievers. They were matched 
on several critical variables with 27 suudents whose measured 
achievement in the same high school was commensurate with 
their high ability. This high ability, achieving group was 
Group II. 

The instruments employed can be listed briefly and 
then discussed more fully in the following sections. 

The Perceived Stress Scale — was developed by Wright 
(1963) and was revised and used to evaluate the initial 
hypothesis regarding the perception of stress. 

To evaluate the experience of stress and anxiety, 
hypothesis II A, II B, and II C, performance on the Perceived 
Stress Scale (Wright 1963); Index of Adjustment and Values 



23 

(Bills, Vance and McClean 1951); the Affect Adjective Check 
List (Zuckerman I960); and the Minnesota Multiphasic 
Personality Inventory (Hathaway and McKinley 194-3) were 
used. From the latter instrument an index was derived by 
Welsh (1952) to he used as a means of investigating the 
experience of anxiety. 

The last three hypotheses, dealing with reactions to 
stress and anxiety were tested by use of MKPI scales con- 
structed by Welsh (1952) and by Harris and Lingoes (I960). 

Procedure 

All incoming freshman at the University of Florida 
spend the majority of their first week at school under- 
going "Freshman Orientation." This was selected as the 
time at which to request the subjects in the study to 
attend group testing, sessions. All testing was scheduled 
and completed during the mid three days of orientation week. 
Of those contacted, 95 P©^ cent appeared for and completed 
the questionnaire material . Students were seen at'pre-set 
hours' which had been determined on the basis of their 
available time during the week. Appointment slips had been 
included in their registration packets and each student was 
strongly encouraged to attend. The several testing sessions 
thus had subjects from both groups, each of whom completed 
the test booklets (Appendix B-D). 



Instruments 

It is most appropriate to consider the instruments 
employed in the study in terms of their use In one of the 
three major areas of concern; perception of stress: experi- 
ence of stress and anxiety, and reaction to stress and 
anxiety. 

Perception of Stress - Th e Perceived Stress Scale is 
a modified (reduced number of items) version of the 
Personal Eating and Activity Eating Scale used by the 
University of Florida Student Menuai Health Clinic (Appendix 
B). Although use of the scale has been limited to the 
University of Florida (Wright 1963) it seemed ~o offer a 
direct, easily scored and easily interpreted method of 
assessing a student's perception and experience of stressful 
stimuli. The instrument has been employed In an exploratory 
manner, -go investigate the possibility of a general relation- 
ship between perception of stress and academic performance. 
Wright's (1963) findings suggested a positive relationship 
between perceived stress and academic success. 

Basically this scale attempts to determine, on the 
basis of direct self-report, the personal, interpersonal and 
social sources of stress as perceived by the college student. 
The student is asked to indicate the amount of stress associ- 
ated with various school, social and personal experiences. 



25 



For the Perceived Stress measure, the amount columi 



(I) was totaled. A weighted score equal to the value of 
the rating assigned to the resoonso Cl~5) was assigned. 
Thus an item, that is "physical appearance," responded to 
with a numerical value to 5, "extremely upsetting," was 
assigned five points. Prom the total of these scores a 
Perceived Stress score was obtained and the groups were 
compared on the basis of these scores. A significantly 
lower Perceived .Stress score for Group 1 would be supportive 
of the initial hypothesis. 

' Experience of Stress and Anxiety . -Additional use was 
made of the above discussed Perceived Stress Scale . Column 
II of this scale, the "like-dislike" column was seen as 
providing an index to the intensity with .which different 
aspects of the environment were experienced* For every 
item listed, the student was requested to assign a rating 
from 1 to 5 which reflected how much the particular item 
was liked or disliked. All responses of 5 or 1 "intense 
dislike" and "like very much," received' a weighted value 
of 5, This value represents a maximum score on intensity 
of feeling, with no regard to direction (positive or nega- 
tive). Responses of 4- and 2 "dislike and like," since they 
represent less intense feelings, received a weighted score 
of 2. Finally, the least intensity reportable, a response 
of 3, "don't care one way or the other," received a weighted 



s 



26 

score of 1 to indicate minimal intensity of feeling. Sup- 
port for hypothesis II A would occur if Group I had a 

ignificantly lower score on this dimension o? intensity of 
experience. 

One of the more Indirect ways by which anxiety or 
subjective discomfort can be appraised has been suggested 
by Butler and Haigh (1955) . From an instrument such as 
the Index of Adjustment and Values (IAV) (Bills , Vance, 
McCleanl951) one may obtain a measure of the discrepancy 
between a respondents current view of himself and his 
"view of himself as he x-/ishes to be" (Bills et al . 1951). 

The IAV (Appendix C) has, according to its authors, 
been administered to 482 college students with the finding 
that the distribution of discrepancy scores and self 

acceptance scores approximate a normal distribution. In 

i 

terms of reliability, it is noted that "the corrected 
split-half reliability of the discrepancy scores..,, using 
odd-numbered versus even-numbered items was 88 for a group 
of 237 students at the University of Eenr,ucky" (Bills et al . 

1951). 

Roberts (1952) , instead of using the usual validating 
procedures, correlation with other personality tests and 
clinical reports based on case studies, employed an experi- 
mental technique. He assumed that the 4 9 trait words 
listed in the index were reflective of emotionality and 



dv 



used reaction time to these words as -chs 



primary indicator 



IU.IC\< 



■ u;i'vc; u \j 



Of emotionality. It was found that; reaction t: 
"significantly longer for trait words on which 
indicated discrepancy between concept oi self ; 
of the ideal self." 

Briefly, the index is composed of three columns, the 
first of which allows the responder to indicate how much of 



the time he is like the trait described. The 

from "seldom" (with a weighted value of 1) to "most of the 



time" (with a weighted value of 5) 



; "co 

and refers to such trai 
as acceptable, competent, fearful, etc. 

Column 2 allows the individual to indicate how he 
feels about being the type of person described by his 
initial response* Since this column was not essential, 
it was not included in the study. 

Finally., column 3 asks the student to decide how 
much of the time he would like this trait ~o be character- 
istic of him. Again, the same scale from "seldom" to "mos1 
of the time" is employed. 

When computing the raw scores,' a high total for 
column I indicated a positive self-concept with little sug- 
gestion of any negative aspects. (Scores on the nine nega- 
tive items , such as annoying, cruel, meddlesome, etc., are 



simply reversed in scoring; value 
reversed to 2, and 3 remains as i 



5 become i 



28 

Column III allows the individual to express his ideal 
in terms of the traits listed. The discrepancy between 



group scores on column I and III is seen to he indicative 
of subjective discomfort (Butler and Heigh 1955) end self- 
dissatisfaction. People with little apparent distress, 
tend to have low discrepancy scores. A low self-ideal 
discrepancy score for Group I was seen as supportive of 
hypothesis II B. 

Hypothesis II C deals with the measurement of the 
actual , direct experience of anxiety, Two measures were 
employed which focused upon bosh the current, immediate 
experience of anxiety ar.d the experience of anxiety as it 
regularly or usually occurs to she student. lor the 
measure of current or present anxiety the Affect Adjective 
Check list (AACL) (Zuckerman I960), was included (Appendix 
D j . 

In a validational study of this instrument , the 
author (Zuckerman I960) attempted to see if "today" (cur- 
rent) AACL anxiety scores would show an increase when given 
on the day on which examinations are given. Is was found 
that the AACL values increased significantly for each of 
the exam days and the mean for all exam days is signifi- 
cantly higher than the mean for all non-exam days. 

A replication and further check on the validity of 
this measure by Zuckerman and Biase (1962) concluded that 



29 
the "AACL was mainly correlated with more specific measures 
of anxiety, that is 1% Pt on the Minnesota Multiphasic 
Personality Inventory; the Taylor Manifest Anxiety scale, 
and the Welch Anxiety Index . uh: or~unately the samples 
were of too small size to allow the establishment of any 
standard norms although for 135 subjects the means fall 
between 7.14 and 7.36 with a standard deviation of 3.7^ 
and 3,98 (Zuckerman 1950), 

' The directions for responding to the AACL emphasize 
to the responder that he is to check from a list of 61 
adjectives the ones which' describe how he is feeling "now - 
today," It was thought that the opportunity to react to a 
stimulus which incorporated a wide range of possible 
feelings at a time which is in many ways one of the most 
upsetting for a new college student, Orientation Week, would 
provide a valuable measure of a student's subjective experi- 
ence. This was essentially an attempt to tap an immediate 
emotional experience by means of self-report. It did not 
seem unreasonable to expect that a request for a spontane- 
ous appraisal of one's experience would perhaps provide 
additional understanding of the temporal aspects of the 
experience of anxiety in these students* An immediate re- 
port might differ from retrospective reports. 

The Affect Adjective Check List: contains adjectives 
which are often checked by highly anxious people ("anxiety- 



30 



plus" words such, as afrai 



ia. lie: 



worrying), It also contains adjectives which are checked 
by individuals relatively free of anxiety ("anxiety-minus" 
words such as calm, cheerful, steady, thoughtful). A total 
score of current subjective anxiety is derived by adding 
the number of endorsed positive signs to the number of un- 
checked negative signs. The possible range of scores is 
from to 21, (Eleven anxiety-plus words and ten anxiety- 
minus words . ) 

Since the concept of anxiety is a basic one in the 
current study, an additional measure of subjective anxiety 
was included. This measure, an Anxiety Index, was used and 
scored independently of the Affect Adjective Check List. 
Welsh (1952) derived the Anxiety Index (AI) from the 
hundreds of Items which make up the Minnesota Multiphasic 
Personality Inventory (Hathaway and McZinley 194-3)* This 
measure was thought to represent something qualitatively 
different from the student's spontaneous reaction to a 
direct request to expose his present feelings (as on the 
AACL). Welsh describes anxiety as "that condition attribu- 
ted to patients complaining of subjective feelings such as 
tension, nervousness, apprehension, fear, etc." (1952). 

In computing the Anxiety Index four scales of the 
MMPI are used: Hs (Hypochondriasis), D (Depression), Hy 
(Hysteria), and Pt (Psychasthenic) . These scales were 



constructed oj including items commonly endorsed bv 
individuals classified as belonging to some of the common 
diagnostic entities, that is, depressives, hysterics. 
Thus, Welsh's formula for arriving at an Index of Anxiety 
is as follows: 

The value for each. scale score is the total number 
of items endorsed in each of the four scales. The higher 
tne value of AI the more anxiety is said to be present. 
The mean score derived for both groups on the AI was also 
used to evaluate hypothesis II C, regarding the experience 
of anxiety by achievers and underachievers . 

Reaction to stress and anxiety . -Of the eight hy- 
potheses offered in this study, four have to do with the 
students reaction to stressful and anxiety provohing 
stimuli. Drawing upon the description of the orooosed 
dynamics involved in chronic academic under achievement , two 
major mechanisms are seen to be primary to this students 
attempts at adjustment, denial and projection or sxternali- 
zation. Denial is classified as a primary defensive process 
wherein the reaction to a perceived threat is to deny its 



existence (Coleman 1956, and White 1956). In contrast t 
'denial, projection or external izat ion is a secondary de- 



o 



fensive adjustment since it is built up 
strengthen an initially basic defensive 



CiULU- G,' 



*J X w j. U U ( 



32 

defensive maneuver is characterized by the tendency to 
blame someone or something outside ourselves for our own 
mistakes (Coleman 1956), 

For the purpose of this study, the method oy which 
a student deals with the stress and anxiety perceived and 
experienced is of interest since previous research has 
generally failed to make the distinction between the 
experience of and reaction to stress and anxiety. Further- 
more, if it is not possible to distinguish students "with 
differential achievement on the basis of their subjective 
perception and experience , the crucial feature may well be 
the way in which these feelings are dealt with. 

Welsh (1952) has developed a measure, the Internali- 
zation Ratio (lit) by which one can differentiate individuals 
who tend to internalize their difficulties and conflicts 
and those who tend to externalize and "act out" their con- 
flicts. For this ratio several scales of the Kinnesota 
Multiphasic Personality Inventory (Hathaway etal. 194-3) 
are again employed. Welsh describes the Internalization 
Ratio as "obtained by summing the three complaint, mood or 
feeling scales: Es, D, and Pt, and dividing by the sum of 
the three behavior or character disorder scales: Ey, Pd 
(Psychopathic deviate) and Ha (Eypomania) (1952). 

For interpretation of the IP. the author points out 
that "subjects who tend to have many somatic symptoms and 



33 



subjective feelings of stress - who 



o m' 
difficulties - can be expected to obtain.. 
(Welsh 1952), 

The formula which is given ior obtaining the 
Internalization Hatio is as follows: 

I-ri il S -J- U -!-_ir L> 



Jdy+Pd+Ma 



J-i. i. X u s. ut: 



oimui. 



On the basis of hypothesis III A, an " external isati on 
of conflicts" was expected from the underachiever since 
internalization of difficulties would tend ■ 
prolong and intensify discomfcru and anxiet; 
stated, Group I was expected to attain a lower internaliza- 
tion ratio than Group II, 

The final three hypotheses, which deal with the re- 
action to stress and anxiety, all have to do with a denial 
of affect and the manifestation of overt attitudes of 
blandness, callousness and self-confidence. 

Harris and Lingoes (I960) have derived several sub- 
scales from the HI1PI test items as an aid to profile 
interpretation of this instrument. They note .hat although 
it is possible to make inferences about the dynamics in- 
volved in an individual performance on a scale by examining 
the pattern of scores .on the other scales, it was believed 
that : 



54 



An examination of item content might add precision 
to this kind of interpretation. To this end, items 
scores in each, scale were examined, and those which 
seemed similar in content. . .were grouped into a sub- 
scale... and then given a name which was thought to 
be descriptive of the items in the scored direction. 
The subscales nave helped to delineate psychological 
differences among groups. 

Three of the subscales which the authors have pre- 
pared were employed in this study (Appendix ?). They have 
in common a theme of imperturbability or a denial of short- 
comings or of sensitivity. The scores on three scales, 
Pd3 - Social Imperturbability, Mai - Amorality, una Ha 3 - 
Imperturbability, were obtained from completed mm?l profile 
sheets. 

Subscale Pd3, Social Imperturbability, is seen as a 
measure of the denial of social anxiety. High scorers on 
this subscale manifest a sort of emotional biandness. This 
concept of imperturbability fits well with Kimball's (1953) 
early finding that underachieving adolescents manifest a 
denial of even their normal shortcomings. The group of 
chronic underachievers was expected to score significantly 
higher than their matched group on this scale and so support 
hypothesis III 3. 

Hypothesis III C also dealt with a kind of imperturba- 
bility or a denial of sensitivity and a freedom from inter- 

of ev 
hypothesis, subscale Ha3 called Imperturbability, was used. 






V. 



IP t T Yio i n T-'-\ orh AC! c rk i 



h the I? calIousrif 



(1952) anc 



and lack of guilt; which was found by Morg< 
Morrow and Wilson (1961), to describe the under achiever. 
The Mai (Amorality) scale devised oy Harris and Lingoes 
(I960) is said to he sensitive to this type of individual 
and was used uo evaluate this hypothesis, (Interestingly, 



Go ugh. (1956) was of the opinion that acadc 



mic unaerac move- 



ment might well be viewed as a form < 



CX.*-* w \s _u CvJ, 



-v Jol u 



>n trie ins 



The basic statistical procedure used to evaluate 
the differences between Group I and --^—^ 
ments and scales described was the 

ference between matched pairs as presented by Edwards 
(195*). 



J. -J A. l/U 



CEAPT3P III 
RESULTS 

Table 1 summarizes the statistically derived mean, 
sum oi differences squared, standard error of the differ- 
ence, standard error of the mean difference and the t-values 
for each of the variables considered. Since all the t-tests 
were one-tailed (Edwards 195*0 a value of 1.706 or above was 
necessary for significant at the ,05 point. 

Hypothesis I predicted that the underachieving group 
(Group I) would tend to perceive less stress in personal 
and social areas. A comparison of the scores on the Per- 
ceived Stress Scale shows that this hypothesis was not 
supported. Although Group I perceived less stress, their 
mean of 52.259 is not significantly less than that of 
53.1^8 for Group II. 

The second hypothesis predicted that Group I would 
tend to experience stress less intensely than Group II. 
Again using the Perceived Stress Scale, a value was derived 
^oj adding the weighted values in column three for each 
member of the two groups. The mean of 64.259 for Group I 
versus 64.814 for Group II, though in the predicted di- 
rection, was far from significant (t » ,319). 

36 



37 





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Tflatfi? 1 



Hypothesis II B predicted a greater amount of anxiety 
for Group II in terms of a larger self-ideal discrepancy on 
the Bills Index of Adjustment and Values, The positive 
value of ,372 reflects doth the failure to 
hypothesis as well as a slight tendency toward g3 
anxiety on behalf of Group I. 

For hypothesis II C, two measures were used. It was 
predicted that Group I would attain a lower score on both 
the Affect; Adjective Check List and on the Anxiety Index. 
The results indicate that the experience of anxiety, as 
measured by the AACL, although not significant, was greater 
for Group I; a finding in direct opposition to the hypothesis. 
Ihe mean of 6.259 for Group I versus 5.222 for Group II 
leads to a t value of -1.134-. 

On the Anxiety Index, however, the reverse is found 
to be true and so is in the hypothesized direction. Group 
I's lower mean of 27*539 as compared with the mean of 
28.93^ for Group II results in a statistically non-significant 
value of -.64-2, 

Hypothesis III A predicted that Group I would tend 
to internalise their conflicts and hostility uo a lesser 
degree than Group II. Welsh's Internalization Ratio was 
employed to test this hypothesis , As shown in Table 1, 
this hypothesis was supported beyond the .05 point (t value 
-2.023). 



39 

Hypothesis III B predicted that Group I would tend 
to exhibit a greater denial of social anxiety than Group II. 
Using the Social Imperturbability subscale, ?a3 (Karris 
and Lingoes I960), the results indicate support for the 
hypothesis,, The Group I mean value of 8.4-07 is signifi- 
cantly greater than 7*555 for Group II and so yields a t 
value of 1.824. 

Hypothesis III C predicted a tendency for Group I 
to deny feelings of sensitivity and to express feelings of 
confidence and independence, Harris and Lingoes' (I960) 
Imperturbability subscale, Ma3, was employed in this evalu- 
ation. The mean values of 3*333 for Group I as compared 
to 2.629 for Group II is significantly different and yields 
a t value of 1.895* Thus, this hypothesis is also sup- 
ported. 

The final hypothesis predicted that Harris and 
Lingoes' (i960) subscale Mai, Amorality, would be more 
highly endorsed by Group I than "oj Group II and so reflect 
a tendency to deny feelings of guilt and to exhibit a 



generally callous attitude . The obtained t value of 1,67 



narrowly missed reaching the .05 point of significance 
(1.706), 

Many additional data -were compiled in the process of 
evaluating the original hypotheses and it was thought that 
further analysis of these was bo~h warranted and desirable 



40 

as a potential resource for an extension of the theory pro- 
posed. 

Tables 2 and 3 are summaries of the results obtained 
by statistical analysis of the two groups 1 differential 
responsiveness to both the I.A.Y. , and the AACL. Results 
for the entire Minnesota Multiphasic Personality inventory 
appear in Table 4, Again, a t value at or above 1,706 is 
significant at the ,05 point while a value of 2,4-79 or 
above yields significance at the ,01 point. 

From the Index of Adjustment and Values (Bills et al . 
1951) two additional measures are derived, measures 
originally used to arrive at the self-ideal discrepancy 
score shown in Table 1; they are the measures of self-con- 
cept and of self -ideal. Although neither of the comparisons 
of Group I and Group II are statistically significant dif- 
ferences, the t values of -1.48? and -1.637 are ^° ^ e noted. 
It may be legitimate to talk in terms of a moderate tendency 
for Group I to characterise themselves in less positive and 
less idealistic terms than Group II* 

The variables "Anxiety Plus" and "Anxiety Minus" 
refer to the Affect Adjective Check List. Again, though 
lacking statistical significance,, there is a trend notable 
in Group I to endorse somewhat more frequently adjectives 
which connote the presence of immediate subjective anxiety. 
The means for "anxiety minus" denote the average number of 



41 







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44 



adjectives not endorsed which are said to reflect the 

absence of anxiety. The groups fail to differ appreciably 
on this measure,, 

Of the groups' performances on the nine clinical 
scales and three validity scales of the Minnesota Multi- 
phasic Personality Inventory (Hathaway and Mchinley 19^3) 
differences which are statistically significant beyond the 
,01 point occur in two cases (fable 4). The mean P scale 
score is higher for Group 1 than it is for Group 11 and the 
same is true for the Pd (Psychopathic deviate scale). In 
addition, there is a greater endorsement of items on the 
Eypomania scale for Group I although the difference does 
not quite reach significance. 



DISCUSSION 

A general statement about the findings reported in 
the previous section could he made which points to the fact 
that differences between the two groups are most apparent 
in their reaction to stress and anxiety. The predictions 
of diminished experience of stress and anxiety among under- 
achievers failed to gain support, A similar failure 
occurred regarding the predicted reduction of perceived 
s "cress for this group. 

The initial hypothesis predicting less stress per- 
ception for Group I was based upon a theme implied in many 
personality descriptions of underachieving students , They 
are frequently described in terms of their insensitivity , 
self-centered behavior and lack of genuine involvement in 
any reactivity "co the environment. It was believed that 
the existence of those features would be reflected in the 
absence of any acute distress or surain manifested by such 
a person. Thus it was expected that in order to maintain 
such a degree of blandness, an individual would have to deny 
the stressful aspects of his perception of people, things 
and situations. 

4> 



46 

In attempting to -understand the failure to support 
the first hypothesis, it is perhaps important to attend to 
the instrument used in this instance. The Perceived Stress 
Scale was employed as an attempt to measure directly the 
degree or frequency and, for the second hypothesis, the 
intensity of perceived stress. However, the use of groups 
which are closely matched and controlled on several vari- 
ables, although a sound consideration for a more "pure" 
interpretation of results, does in fact tend to create 
groups which in many respects are homogeneous. In so doing 
it would follow that to identify differences between these 
groups a particularly sensitive instrument would be needed. 
Unfortunately, the Perceived Stress Scale, an instrument 
whose validity and indiscrimability have not been fully 
evaluated, may not be sufficiently sensitive. Originally 
it had been thought that this direct report measure would 
be adequate for the task involved. However, the combination 
of nearly homogeneous groups and a direct self report measure 
seems to instigate against the probability of identifying 
real differences which mey exist between groups. 

It would seem that although the underachieving group 
did tend to perceive stress somewhat less frequently than 
the achievers, the difference Is so slight as to justify 
the claim of similar perception of stress for both groups. 



47 

In many ways the failure to support the second hypo- 
thesis, which predicted a less intense experience of stress, 
may be viewed in the light of the prior discussion. As 
measured hy the "like-dislike" column of the Perceived 
Stress Scale the intensity with which stressful aspects of 
the environment are experienced does not differ between 
groups. Again, the measure employed is one of direct 
import since it was used in a manner not previously at- 
tempted. The task of measuring the reported intensity of a 
perception or experience, while believed to be of great 
significance, proves to be extremely difficult. It was 
perhaps naive to seek a measure of intensity by asking the 
student to report "how much" of an emotion he experiences. 
In the weighing and scoring procedure employed, the effort 
was made to bypass the usual positive or negative aspects 
of the reported feelings. The question of intensity of 
experience remains a critical one in attempting to under- 
stand the differential levels of experience which may dis- 
tinguish the achieving and non-achieving student. This is 
essentially the position previously noted by Kobbs (1962) 
when he states that, "it is along the dimension of concen- 
tration of effort and intensity of purpose,... that the 
groups differ most significantly." 

The third hypothesis focused upon the experience of 
subjective discomfort or anxiety which is said to occur when 



48 

an individual reports some discrepancy between his current 
view of himself and his hypothetical, ideal self (Butler 
and Haigh 195^)- It was believed that this might represent 
another approach by which the existence of anxiety would be 
reflected. In contrast to the Perceived Stress Scale 
(Wright 1963) or the .Index of Adjustment and Values (Bills 
1951), the individual is not asked directly to report on 
his subjective experience but rather is required to provide 
two different self evaluations - of what he is, and of what 
he'd like to be. 

Again, consistent with the writer's view of the 
chronically underachieving student, the apparent absence of 
stress which these people seemed to manifest suggested that 
for them there was little concern about attaining a higher 
level of adequacy than they presently possessed and so 
there would be little difference between current and ideal 
self-concepts. The finding that the two groups did not 
differ significantly on the discrepancy measure is inter- 
esting for several reasons. 

To begin with, the performance of the groups on the 
two measures which comprise the discrepancy score reflects 
a tendency for those of the achieving group both to perceive 
themselves in a more positive way than the underachievers 
and also to aspire to even greater self -enhancement than 
Group I. It is possible that the absence of any significant 



a 9 

difference in discrepancy scores between the groups may be 
due to two entirely different factors both of which act 
independently to reduce the discrepancies. That the experi- 
mental group was characterized by a lower self-concept and 
lower ideal concept score (Table 2) may suggest that these 
people lack the appreciation of the positive aspects of self 
to a greater degree than does Group II. One of the addi- 
tional findings to be more fully discussed later in the 
paper (page 56) indicates that the underachieving group 
tends to deny shortcomings. Although this may at first 
seem contradictory it perhaps suggests that the under- 
achiever is not so much concerned with seeing himself and 
being seen as a positive person but rather is oriented more 
in the direction of denial of inadequacy and other negative 
attributes. Since his orientation is not really in terms 
of self -enhancement, self -improvement or self-idealization, 
it is not surprising that he fails to endorse consistently, 
statements about himself which might otherwise reflect such 
a perception. 

Response to items which reflect the personal aspira- 
tions of the groups also point up a difference which, though 
not statistically significant, is strong enough to warrant 
comment. Once again this group of achievers, seem to be more 
concerned with improvement of self even though they already 
see themselves more positively than does the underachieving 



50 

group. This would seem to suggest that a motivational factor 
may also be involved in the way in which these students dif- 
fer. This finding may also suggest that striving for a 
higher self -ideal may not be upsetting for the achiever if 
he begins from a relatively high level of self-acceptance. 
Minimal upset would also occur in the underachiever if 
there was no great striving for a more ideal feeling of 
selfhood. 

The fact that the discrepancy scores of the groups 
are similar, actually obscures the relationship which 
exists between their self -concepts and self -ideal ratings, 
For neither group is the discrepancy large but this may be 
true for different reasons. The achievers, despite their 
positive view of themselves^ still seek improvement. The 
underachievers, though reflecting less positive regard of 
self,, seemingly have no strong aspirations for improvement. 
In both cases the discrepancies which exist are perhaps not 
great enough to initiate any severely disruptive anxiety. 

It may of course be argued, since we do not know 
just how much anxiety, is truly disruptive (and since it 
would differ between individuals)^ that the discrepancy 
scores we observe for both groups do reflect the existence 
of a notable degree of subjective discomfort and anxiety 
(Butler and Haigh 1954). If so, one might postulate that 
the anxiety so generated was responded to differentially by 



51 



the groups. There are many who support the idea that 
achievement is often the result of neurotic, anxiety-driven 
striving (Burgess 1953; McClelland 1955 and Montalto 1946). 
Thus a process which transforms anxiety into a force pro- 
pelling academic striving, that is, McClelland' s (1955) 
"need achievement," perhaps is operative in the achieving 
student. In contrast to this process it may be that the 
underachiever fails to harness this "force" and channel it 
toward academic success (Holland 1959 and Mitchell 1959). 
It could he suggested that defensive mechanisms, that is, 
denial or repression, neutralize and undermine the un- 
comfortable, though potentially helpful, subjective dis- 
comfort and instead act to produce a bland, academically 
unmotivated student. 

Although this is clearly speculative since the ex- 
istence of disruptive anxiety has not been clearly estab- 
lished, the very important problem of the reaction to 
anxiety is thus highlighted for further discussion. 

Another aspect of the emotion of anxiety which was 
viewed as contributory to the overall level of subjective 
discomfort was the student's current, spontaneous experience 
as measured by the Affect Adjective Chech List (Zuckerman 
i960). Most research fails to distinguish between manifest 
and latent, current and recalled anxiety - a necessary dis- 
tinction in this investigation since responsiveness to 
ongoing situations was an important consideration. 



52 



The findings, as shown in Table 2, failed to support 
hypothesis II C; not only did Group I not report less anxiety 
out the direction of the results was opposite to the one 
hypothesized. While failing to reach statistical signifi- 
cance, the findings tend to reflect a somewhat greater 
tendency to report the presence of immediate anxiety for 
Group I. This finding is the result of the under achiever 's 
responding to the Affect Adjective Check List by checking a 
greater number of adjectives which imply the presence of 
anxiety (anxiety-plus words) and of his failure to endorse 
many items which contraindicate the presence of anxiety 
(anxiety-minus words). 

There is something immediately striking about the 
pattern of responding described above. It is very similar 
to that tendency observed in both groups' responses to the 
self- and self -ideal scales of the Index of Adjustment and 
Values (Bills 1951). Again, fewer positive aspects of self 
are endorsed by the underachiever. (The same will also be 
seen in this group's performance on the F scale of the 
KMPI.) It is also possible to offer that this group of 
nonachieving students characterize themselves less fre- 
quently in terms of positive affect than the achieving 
group. This suggestion would be consistent with those who 
found the underachiever to be depressed in attitudes toward 
himself (Horrall 1957; Roth and Meyersburg 1955). 



53 
The same hypothesis, II C s also fails to gain support 
from the results obtained on Welsh's (1952) Anxiety Index. 
This was another measure used to tap the experience of 
anxiety and it is one which deals with the usual, habitual 
experience of this affect. Again the groups cannot be 
differentiated on the basis of this measure, a result which 
contradicts Bond's (I960) idea of a high degree of free 
floating anxiety as characteristic of the underachiever. 

At this point then It may be appropriate to regard 
further the implications of one finding which, though not 
significant, was in fact in the direction opposite to the 
one hypothesized. An analysis of the groups* responses to 
the Affect Adjective Check List (Table 2) shows a tendency 
for Group I to endorse more adjectives correlated with 
feelings of anxiety (anxiety-plus words) than does Group II. 
(t - 1.407 where t = 1.706 is needed for significance.) It 
might be argued that the underachiever experiences anxiety 
of a more immediate, spontaneous nature. It will be re- 
membered that the directions for the AACL ask the respondent 
to "describe how you feel now - today" (Zuckerman I960). 
Comparing this with the results on the Anxiety Index (Welsh 
1952) once again, the difference is not significant although 
Group I achieves a lower mean total. The Anxiety Index, 
reflecting as it does the usual and habitual experience of 
anxiety shows the groups to be comparable on this variable. 



5^ 

Keeping in mind that these are not statistically 
significant findings, there still may be some justification 
for pointing to a possible source of discrepancy between 
our groups in their reported experience of anxiety. To 
carry this theme further, it would, be logical to raise the 
question of what happens to this supposed current anxiety 
which is experienced by the underachieving group. The 
failure of the reported anxiety to manifest itself on the 
measure of usual, overall anxiety, the Anxiety Index, sug- 
gests that a change is undergone so that the apparent one- 
time higher level of anxiety is reduced. This leads to a 
consideration of the third major area involving the re- 
action to stress and anxiety. 

Hypothesis III A involved a prediction of a signifi- 
cantly lower degree of internalization of problems and 
conflicts for Group I. This hypothesis was supported at 
the .05 point of significance. The rationale on which this 
hypothesis was based suggests a manner of dealing with 
conflicts and other stressful aspects of functioning by 
rejecting one's own contribution to these difficulties. 
Individuals unwilling or unable to endure stress or anxiety 
will not internalize their difficulties. Instead "externali- 
zation" - wherein subjective discomfort is discharged by 
direct action, is adopted as the preferred mode of respon- 
ding. Thus, once again the question of how the underachiever 



55 



deals with, the subjective discomfort he experiences is 
raised with the implication that he would tend to place the 
locus of his difficulties outside himself. 

Closely related to the underachieving group's ex- 
ternalization of conflicts and sources of anxiety is the 
greater degree of "Social Imperturbability" they seem to 
manifest (Hypothesis III B). Social Imperturbability is a 
term introduced by Harris and Lingoes (I960) to describe 
behavior reflective of a denial of social anxiety, a biand- 
ness and a denial of dependency needs. On this subscale 
of items from the MMPI, Group I scored significantly higher 
than Group II. They therefore can be seen as reporting 
behavior which is more impervious to the frequently stress- 
ful encounters one has socially. 

This finding is consistent with Gowan's (1955) 
statement that, "the under achiever tends to be self-suffi- 
cient and unsociable. . .therefore harder to reach." It 
would appear that one of the effects of the behavior which 
the underachiever manifests is to distance himself from 
others, including others who might help him to deal more 
effectively with the discomfort he experiences. In a way, 
the process of externalization acts in the same manner 
since responsibility for the difficulties the student 
experiences is projected outward; others then are nega- 
tively perceived. 



56 

Moving to hypothesis III B, another statistically 
significant result is observed. A second Harris and Lingoes 
(I960) subscale, Imperturbability, which, is viewed as re- 
flecting a denial of sensitivity and independence from the 
opinions of other people also distinguishes between the 
reported behavior of the groups with the underachieving 
group more "imperturbable." Morgan's (1952) conclusion that 
his sample of under achievers seem to be "socially insensi- 
tive" and "self-centered" points to much the same behavior. 
Other researchers describe the social disinterest and 
apparent apathy the under achiever exhibits in his inter- 
personal relationship. In fact he is often seen as mani- 
festing asocial and withdrawn behavior which eventually 
leads to isolation (C-ough 1953; C-owan 1957; Walsh 1956). 

The final hypothesis involved the third subscale, 
"Amorality" developed by Harris and Lingoes (i960), which 
was used in this study. Of the four hypotheses which dealt 
with the group's reaction to stress and anxiety this was 
the only one which did not reach statistical significance. 
However, since the value of t so closely approaches the 
value needed for significance (Table 1) it perhaps may be 
acceptable to talk in terms of a tendency on behalf of Group 
I to manifest "Amorality" - a denial of feelings of guilt 
and a general attitude of callousness toward the environ- 
ment. The idea of a callous attitude being employed as a 



5? 

means of coping with the threat or fear of subjective dis- 
comfort, anxiety or stress is not unfounded. This notion 
is congruent with the suggestion that anxiety generates 
defensiveness, evasion and denial in our experimental group 
rather than a more productive striving as may be the case 
with the achieving groups (McClelland 1953). 

Two aspects of behavior to which the amoraiity sub- 
scale is apparently sensitive, the denial of guilt or 
responsibility and callousness, can be viewed as attributes 
which can only be maintained at the expense of personal 
involvement. One may deny feeling responsible for his 
interactions with others if these relationships are such 
that those concerned are not really influenced or affected 
by each other. Superficial liasons with several or even 
many others would in no way jeopardize the underachieve!- 1 s 
needs to avoid or deny feelings of guilt or responsibility 
for the status of the relationship. What better way to 
preclude one's real involvement with others than to appear 
as someone who cares very little about things and people 
(imperturbability) and who derives little or no satisfaction 
from emotional intimacy? More simply - what better way to 
avoid involvement than by an appearance of callousness or 
emotional constriction? 

As was previously noted, other findings of signifi- 
cance appeared in the study in the course of analyzing the 



58 

data specifically related to the original hypotheses. The 
groups were systematically compared on the MMP1 scales; 
the results appear in Table 4-, One of these findings, that 
the underachieving group scores significantly higher on the 
"3?" scale , may imply that feelings of restlessness, rebel- 
lion and dissatisfaction (Hathaway and Meehl 1951) are more 
pronounced in Group I than in Group II. In this vein if is 
interesting to note that Morrow and Wilson (1961) reported 
that their peers described the underachiever in terms of 
"a negative attitude to authority, violations of adult laws 
and standards, excitement seeking and dissatisfaction with 
life." The related finding of higher underachiever scores 
on the Psychopathic deviate (P&) scale is consistent both 
with previous research and the results of the study thus 
far. Both Drake (1962) and Morgan (1952) have reported 
studies in which the Pd scale was more heavily endorsed by 
underachievers. (Yet this scale in and of itself cannot be 
used effectively to Identify non-achieving students.) 

The wide discrepancy in performance on scale <+ of the 
MMPI "Psychopathic deviate" (Hathaway and Meehl 1951) favor- 
ing the experimental group lends further support to the idea 
that the underachiever manifests unacceptable, rebellious 
and defiant behavior. This seems to be "anti-social" be- 
havior in its truest sense; it is behavior which serves to 
alienate the individual from any constructive involvement 
with others. 






59 

In many ways "anti-social," "sociopathic" or "psycho- 
pathic" behavior, as it is manifested by the underachieve:?, 
can be seen as serving a twofold purpose; not only may it 
preclude meaningful involvement, and consequently the risk 
of experiencing stress and anxiety, but it also provides a 
means through which, negative affect which he has built up 
can be discharged. The significance of this type of be- 
havior pattern is of particular import when considering ways 
in which to treat the underachieving student. 

Having now considered the specific findings as they 
relate to the major hypotheses and the additional results 
which were not predicted, an attempt will be made to inte- 
grate the material into a more general statement. 

The results have, for the most part, failed to bring 
out any significant differences between the groups in the 
reported perception of stress. Similarly, there has been 
no strong support for the existence of a lower level of 
anxiety for the experimental group. In fact, there Is some 
suggestion that the underachieving group may more frequently 
report the experience of anxiety. If the results for only 
the measures of anxiety were to be considered it would 
necessitate an almost total rejection of the hypothesized 
characteristics of the underachieving student of high ability, 

However, when the findings concerning the reaction 
to stress and anxiety are considered, the suggested patterns 



c 







are supported. What emerges is a sketch of trie under- 
achieving student as someone who, while seeming to perceive 
stress and to experience anxiety in degrees at least equal 
to the achieving student, nevertheless tends to respond 
differently; in a bland, insensitive and callous manner. 

It is important to emphasize one of the possible 
explanations for the findings of significant, or near 
significant differences on the scales derived from the MMPI 
(P&3, Mai, MaJ) in contrast to the results on the Perceived 
Stress Scale, Index of Adjustment and Values, and the Affect 
Adjective Check List. In many ways the HMPI scales and sub- 
scales consist of items descriptive of behavior and thought 
(Hathaway and McKinley 194-3) > that is, number 64 . . . "I 
sometimes keep on at a thing until others lose their patience 
with me," and number 167 "...'It wouldn't make me nervous if 
any member of my family got into trouble with the law." The 
items on the other three measures in contrast reflect 
aspects of perception and emotional experience and it is on 
these t:hat the groups seem indistinguishable. One of the 
implications of distinguishing between experience of and 
reaction to, is that the defenses of denial and avoidance 
which were felt to characterize the perception and experi- 
ence of the underachiever are more readily apparent when the 
reported behavior of these students is investigated. For It 
is just as Penichel (1945) states; "... 'a denial of anxiety 



62 
experience of anxiety? This may well be the manner in 
which the underachieve? seeks to dissipate this negative 
affect. 

Once again it must be stressed that no attempt is 
made to characterize the academically underachieving 
student of high ability as a psychopathic personality. 
Rather? the observation of Ketherington and Klinger (1964) 
that there are degrees of psychopathy in normal as well as 
in clinical populations is seen as particularly relevant 
to the attempts to clarify the dynamics and treatment of 
the academic underachiever. 

In a recent review of studies dealing with personality 
traits and underachievement, Taylor (1964) concluded that, 
"the degree to which a student is able to handle his anxiety 
is directly related to his level of achievement." Further- 
more, he states that, "the ability to conform to and/or 
accept authority demands will determine the amount of 
academic success." Both of these conclusions would seem to 
have relevance to the present study. The first raises 
again the question of effective utilization of the student's 
level of anxiety for, as Daniels (1963) points out, while 
achieving students may tend to "worry more, to be more dis- 
satisfied and self critical" they also tend, "to be more 
idealistic than underachievers . " Certainly the description 
is quite similar to the one suggested by the current 



63 
findings; namely a higher "internalization ratio" and a 
higher self-ideal score for the achievers. The peoole des- 
cribed by McClelland (1953) as manifesting the achievement 
motive also sound much like our achieving group. 

Taylor's (1964) second conclusion highlights the 
difficulties the underachieving student is likely to have 
if he manifests', as our Group I seems to do, cockiness and 
rebelliousness particularly in the school setting. 3j pro- 
claiming independence from the opinions of other people 
(Imperturbability as measured by Ma3), and by externalizing 
hostility (as measured by the Internalization Ratio) it is 
as Taylor (1964) suggests, that the underachiever "tends to 
create a less favorable impression and as a result he is 
less acceptable to the instructor." This is an extremely 
important point because it directs itself to the problem 
of why the underachiever does poorly in classroom oerfor- 
mance while clearly displaying his ability and achievement 
in non-classroom settings (that is, state or nationwide 
tests). This is the way in which under achievement is 
customarily defined. 

Turning now to a consideration of how the results of 
the present study may be useful in dealing with the under- 
achieving student one basic fact must be admitted; 
counseling the underachiever has rarely been a successful 
venture (Bosdell 1962, McCarthy 1961, McDaniel and Johnson 



6^ 
1962). Prom most accounts the under-achieving student, if 
he happens to remain in some treatment program, usually 
proves to be unresponsive. 

On the basis of the findings obtained in this study, 
some of the usual treatment suggestions must be questioned. 
C-oldburgh and Penney (1962) propose that a technique called 
"sector counseling" directed only toward the problem of 
academic difficulty is the treatment of choice with under- 
achieving college students. Other more personal problems 
are to be avoided. In view of the strong evidence of the 
influence of personal and characterological differences 
between achievers and non-achievers this is a questionable 
attitude. 

Similarly, the non-directive approach attempted by 
McCarthy (1961) failed to yield results even though 'the 
students were given the opportunity to discover for them- 
selves, in a group, the causes of and solution to their 
underachievement. 

The findings in the present study seem to point to a 
difficulty manifested by the underachiever in constructively 
dealing with the stress and anxiety he experiences. The 
behavior he purports to manifest suggests that both denial 
and avoidance are the unproductive measures- employed to deal 
with negative affect. 



65 



In an effort to more accurately identify the potential 
college under achiever it would seem that some of the points 
made by Drago (1957) about the general problem of psycho- 
logical breakdown among college students are appropriate- 
here. He believes that the use of the usual academic 
criteria "seduces us into admitting students psychologically 
unfit for college life." There is, he feels, a "need to 
broaden our concept of what it takes to get through college 
and what kind of individual can get the most out of a college 
education." The author further suggests the use of a "wide 
mesh" screening device such as the MMPI for identifying 
personality difficulties. Students whose scores aroused 
suspicion would then be seen by a professional counselor. 

Closely related to the above suggestion is Stripling's 
(1961) proposal that a competently staffed counseling center 
be available to help determine if it is practical for the 
student to continue in school and at the same time get the 
help he needs to overcome his problem. His specific recom- 
mendation is that these people be exposed to "special 
orientation classes with a skilled instructor able to deal 
with the problems common to the class of under achievers . " 
The results of this study indicate that the underachiever 
admits to current feelings of anxiety during the stressful 
first week of school. If these people could be identified 
and counselled before manifesting their underachievement on 



66 

the college level an important preventive step might be 
attained. That is, before the under achiever was able to 
begin responding in an unproductive and alienating manner, 
he might be provided with an opportunity to see and 
evaluate this tendency and then offered more adaptive 
substitutive measures. 

Along with the above suggestion some consideration 
might be given to the type of learning situation into which 
the underachieving student might be placed. As Beach (I960) 
rightly notes, "comparatively little attention has been 
given to the personality of the learner as he performs under 
various forms of instructional methods and in varying 
learning situations." In a study limited because of a 
rather small sample he found that "less sociable" students 
achieved better in a lecture section of a psychology course. 
Smaller, autonomous groups favor the more social students. 

Our underachieving group does not appear to have 
"sociability" as a distinguishing characteristic. A con- 
flict With others, which may result from their callousness 
and insensitivity would seem to establish their immediate 
need for an academic setting which reduced the opportunity 
for open and direct interaction with teachers and to some 
extent with other students. Optimally, once identified 
these students might be placed in special orientation class 
as suggested by Stripling (19&1) and also have -choir class 
assignments more carefully selected. 



67 
In terms of specific treatment techniques one might 
consider the application of a method employed by Paul (1965). 
He suggests the use of "emotionally-toned" interpretations 
to undo strong defense mechanisms such as avoidance and 
neurotic denial (two mechanisms frequently seen as character- 
istic of the chronic under achiever). He believes that 
"these may be the parameters of techniques successful during 
the psychoanalysis of some compulsive and schizoid character 
neuroses and other disorders characterized by exceptionally 
powerful defensive maneuvers of avoidance and neurotic 
denial." 

Certainly the male under achiever of high ability must 
be seen as manifesting maladaptive personality and/or 
characterological traits and treatment must attempt to deal 
with these, future research would seemingly have to begin 
with this assumption if adequate methods of identification 
and treatment are to be derived. One major area of focus, 
as suggested ^oy the current findings, would appear to be 
the factors which determine why the underachiever chooses to 
react to his subjective discomfort in the manner previously 
described. What makes the acceptance of one's responsibility 
and inadequacies so difficult a choice for this student? 
Why is there such a curtailment of the flexibility of the 
ego? Also in relation to treatment, what of the efficacy 
of special orientation classes and an academic schedule 



68 

which minimizes the exposure to those classroom settings 
in which the under achiever is likely to fare poorly? 

All of the above seem to be questions which could 
be fitted to research design. Hopefully, the continued 
proliferation of studies which isolate relatively obscure 
and often unrelated traits could be discouraged and more 
intensive, perhaps longitudinal, approaches to the dynamics 
of underachievement be attempted. 



CKAPTE2 V 
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS 

The problem of chronic academic under achieve meat in 
high ability students was studied in terms of three areas 
of interest; their perception of stress, their experience 
of stress and anxiety, and their reaction to stress and 
anxiety. In view of the fact that academic underachievement 
is primarily a problem with males, the initial focus was 
upon all male students entering the University of Florida 
in the fall trimester. From a list of these students a 
total of 281 incoming male freshman were identified as 
being at or above the 75th percentile on the Florida 12th 
Grade Placement Test. This group was further divided into 
two groups,, the first made up of students who had achieved 
a cumulative high school grade point average of 2.5 or 
below (A = 4,0, 3 = 3-0, C » 2.0 and I = 1.0). The second 
group was composed of students whose grade point average 
during high school was J.O or above. Additionally, both 
groups were comparable on the basis of their performance 
on the School and College Ability Test. Of these 281 high 
ability students, 58 fell into the first group, designated 
as high ability under achievers, while 225 were classified 

69 



7 



u 

as nigh, ability achievers. Finally, the experimental group, 
Group I, consisted of 27 (of the original 58) high ability 
underachieving students matched on a number of variables 
with 27 high ability achieving students making up Group II. 

The groups were compared on the basis of their 
written responses to four instruments which provided the 
data to evaluate hypotheses regarding the three areas of 
perception, experience and reported behavior. The specific 
hypotheses stated that chronic under achievers as compared 
to achievers will: 

I. Perceive less stress in personal and social areas. 
II A. Describe their experience in personal and social 
areas as less intense. 

B. Have lower self -ideal discrepancy. 

C. Experience less subjective anxiety. 

Ill A. Internalize conflicts and hostility to a lesser 
degree. 

B. Manifest greater social imperturbability. 

C. Respond with greater personal Imperturbability. 

D. Show greater "amorality" (callousness about 
one y s motives). 

The student's perception of stress was measured oj 
his reported estimate of the amount of stress associated 
with many aspects of his environment (Perceived Stress 
Scale). 



71 
The experience of anxiety and stress was tapped by 
four independent measures: one dealt with the stated 
intensity of the perceived stress (Perceived Stress Scale); 
another focused upon the discrepancy (and assumed basis for 
subjective discomfort) between concept of self and self- 
ideal concept (Index Adjustment and Values); a third was a 
description, using adjectives of affective experience, of 
the immediate presence of anxiety (Affect Adjective Check 
List). Finally , an index reflecting the usual more permanent 
aspect of anxiety was also employed (Anxiety Index). 

For the hypotheses involving the reaction to stress 
and anxiety four subscales derived from the Minnesota 
Multiphasic Personality Inventory were used; Welsh's 
Internalization Ratio, Pd3 Social Imperturbability, Ma3 
Imperturbability, and Mai Amorality. 

The findings obtained after statistical evaluation by 
t test for matched groups resulted in a failure to support 
the hypotheses regarding the perception and the experience 
of stress and anxiety. Thus the group of under achievers 
did not, as predicted, manifest a reduced perception and 
experience of stress and anxiety as compared to the achieving 
group. 

However, there appeared to be significant support for 
the predictions that the under achiever group would report 
themselves as manifesting much less concern for the opinion 



72 

of others, an imperturbability in social and interpersonal 
settings and an externalization of conflicts and 
responsibility. 

The overall results suggest that the underachiever 
may in fact display behavior characterized by some degree 
of avoidance and denial which, is his way of dissipating 
initially experienced stress and anxiety. Several sug- 
gestions regarding identification and treatment were 
offered reflecting the belief that personality and 
characterological factors are basic to the problem of 
chronic under achievement. In addition, several areas of 
focus for future research were designated. 



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Additional References 



Florida Statewide Testing Program sponsored by the University 
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Princeton, New Jersey. 

School and College Ability Test, Educational Testing Service, 
Princeton, New Jersey. 



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APPENDII 
PEECEIVED STRESS SCALE 

P. s. s. 

This scale contains some things that are sometimes 
sources ox concern to students. Your rating of these items 
as sources of strain to you will he held in strictest confi- 
dence. It is important that you put down your real feelings, 

Column I 

Listed on the next page are some items which 
may have been bothering you to some extent. 
Think about your school, social and personal 
experiences. Next consider the amount of strain 
associated with the items and then rate each on 
the following five point scale: 

5. Extremely upsetting 

4. Very upsetting 

3. Somewhat upsetting 

2. Only slightly upsetting 

1. ITo strain 

Column II 

Finally, regardless of the strain involved, 
please rate how you feel about the item on the 
following scale: 

5. Intense dislike 

4. Dislike 

3. Don't care one way or the other 

2. Like 

1. Like very much 



81 
Appendix B (continued) 

ITEM I II 

Amount Like -Si si ike 

1. Loneliness 

2. Nervousness 

3. Finances 

4-. Physical appearance 

5. Boy (or girl) friend 

6. Mother 

7. Father 

8. Other relative 

9* Sex, personal 

10. Sex, interpersonal 

11. Body regularity 

12. Headaches 

13. Stomach problems 

1*. Colds 

15. Eating 

16. Close dependence on family 

17. Relative independence from family 

18. Part-time job 

19. People on whom you depend , 

20. Privacy 

21. Sleeping 

22. Most courses 

23. Certain difficult courses 



82 



Appendix B (continued) 

ITEM 

24. Certain easy courses 

25. Final exams 

26. Plays. Ed, classes 

27» Participation in athletics 

28. Church attendance 

29 . Academic advisement 

30. Medical treatment 

31. Dating 



I II 
Amount Like-Dislike 



83 



APPENDIX C 

INDEX OE ADJUSTMENT AND VALUES 

SELE INSTRUCTIONS FOR IAV 

There is a need for each of us to know more about 
ourselves, but seldom do we have an opportunity to look at 
ourselves as we are or as we would like to be. On the 
following page is a list of terms that to a certain degree 
describe people. Take each term separately and apply it to 
yourself by completing the following sentence: 

I AM A (AN) PERSON. 

The first word in the list is academic , so you would substi- 
tute this term in the above sentence. It would read — I am 
an a cademic person. 

Then decide HOW MUCH OE THE TIME this statement is like you, 
i.e., is typical or characteristic of you as an individual, 
and rate yourself on a scale from one to five according to 
the following key. 

1. Seldom., is this like me. 

2- O ccasionally ,, this is like me. 

3- A bout half of the time , this is like me. 
4. A scood deal of the time , this is like me. 
5« Most of the time , this is like me. 

Select the number beside the phrase that tells how much of 
the time the statement is like you and insert it in Column 
I on the next page. 

E XAMPLE : Beside the term ACADEMIC, number two is inserted 
to indicate that — occasionally, I am an academic person. 

Now go to Column II. Use one of the statements given 
below to tell HOW YOU EEEL about yourself as described in 
Column I. 

1. I very much dislike being as I am In this respect. 

2. I dislike being as I am in this respect. 

J. I neither dislike being as I am nor like being as 
I am in this respect. 

4. I like being as I am in this respect. 

5. I like very much being as I am in this respect. 

You will select the number beside the statement that tells 
how you feel about the way you are and insert the number in 
Column II. 



84 



Lppeiidix C (continued) 



EXAMPLE : In Column II beside the term ACADEMIC, number one 
is inserted to indicate that I dislike very much being as I 
am in respect to the term, academic. Note that being as I 
am always refers to the way you described yourself in 
Column I. 

Finally, go to Column III; using the same term, com- 
plete the following sentence: 

I WOULD LIKE TO BE A (AN) PERSON. 

Then decide HOW MUCH OP THE TIME you would like this trait 
to be characteristic of you and rate yourself on the follow- 
ing five point scale. 

1. S eldom , would I like this to be me. 

2. Occasionally , I would like this to be me. 

3- About half of the tim e, I would like this to be me, 
Zl- « A good deal of the time , I would like this to be 

me. 
5. Most of the tim e , I would like this to be me. 
You will select the number beside the phrase that tells how 
much of the time you would like to be this kind of a person 
and insert the number in Column 111. 

EXAMPLE : In Column III beside the term ACADEMIC, number 
five is inserted to indicate that mpq-h of the time. 1 would 
like to be this kind of person. 

Start with the word ACCEPTABLE and fill in Columns I, II, 
and III before going on to the next word. There is no time 
limit. Be honest with yourself so that your description 
will be a true measure of how you look at yourself. 



Appendix C (continued) 

I II 



III 



85 



II III 



a. 
1. 
2. 

3. 

4. 

5. 
6. 
7 

3. 

9. 
10. 

11. 
12. 

13. 

- 

15. 

16. 

17. 
18. 

19. 
20. 

21. 
22. 

23. 
24 

25. 


academic 








acceptable 


26. 


merry 




accurate 


27. 


mature 




alert 


28. 


nervous 

normal 

ootimistic 




ambitious 


29. 




annoying 


30. 




busy 


31. 


ooised 




calm 


32. 


purposeful 




charming 


33. 


reasonable 




clever 


34. 


reckless 




competent 


35. 


responsible 




confident 


36. 


sarcastic 




considerate 


37. 
38. 


sincere 




cruel 


stable 
studious 




democratic 


39. 




dependable 


40. 


successful 




economical 


41. 


stubborn 




efficient 


42. 

43. 
44. 


tactful 




fearful 


teachable 




friendly 


useful 




fashion- 
able 


45. 


worthy 




helpful 


46. 


broad-minded 




intel- 
lectual 


47. 


businesslike 




kind 


48. 


competitive 




logical 


49. 


fault-finding 




meddlesome 









86 



APPENDIX D 
THE AFFECT ADJECTIVE CHECK LIST 
AACL 



Below you will find words which describe different kinds of 
feelings , Chech "the words which describe how you feel row- 
today. Some of the Words may sound alike but we want you to 



check 


all of the words th 


at describe your 


feelings. 


I. 


AFRAID 


28. 


JEALOUS 


55. THREATENED 


2. 


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29. 


JOYFUL 


56 . THOUGHTFUL 


3. 


ANGRY 


30. 


KINDLY 


57. UNCONCERNED 


LL 

1 


BITTER 


31. 


LIGHT-HEARTED 


58 . UNEASY 


5. 


CALM 


32. 


LONELY 


59 . UPSET 


6. 


CHARMING 


33. 


LOVING 


60 . WARM 


7. 


CHEERFUL 


34. 


MAD 


61 . WORRYING 


8. 


COMPLAINING 


35. 


MEAN 




9. 


CONTENTED 


36. 


MERRY 




10. 


CONTRARY 


37. 


MISERABLE 




11. 


COOL 


38. 


NERVOUS 




12. 


CROSS 


39. 


OVSRCONCERNSD 




13. 


DESPERATE 


40. 


OVERWHELMED 




!*•_ 


EASY-GOING 


4-1. 


PANICKY 




15. 


FEARFUL 


4-2. 


PEACEFUL 




16. 


FEARLESS 


4-3. 


PLEASANT 




17. 


FRETFUL 


4-4-. 


RATTLED 




18. 


FRIENDLY 


4-5. 


oAJJ 




19. 


FRIGHTENED 


46. 


SECURE 




20. 


FURIOUS 


4-7- 


SENTIMENTAL 




21. 


GAY 


48. 


SERIOUS 




22. 


GLOOMY 


4-9. 


SHAKY 




23. 


GRIM 


50. 


SOLEMN 




24-. 


HAPPY 


51. 


STEADY 




25. 


HELPLESS 


52. 


TENDER 




26. 


HOPELESS 


53. 


TENSE 




27. 


INSECURE 


54-. 


TERRIFIED 





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91 



APPENDIX P 
SUBSCA1ES PROM THE MINNESOTA MULTIPHASIC PERSONALITY I1WENTORY 



Pd3 Social Imperturbability: denial ox social anxiety; 
blandness, denial of dependency needs. 

Items: 64T, 82P, 141P, 171P, 180P, 2011, 267P, 
304P, 352P, 479T, 520 T. 



Ma 3 Imperturbability: affirmations of confidence in 
social situations; denial of sensitivity; 
proclamation of independence from the opinions of 
other people. 

Items: 105?, 148P, 167T, 1?1P, 180P, 222T, 240T, 
267P. 



Mai Amorality: a callousness about one's own motives 
and ends and other people; disarming frankness, 
denial of guilt. 

Items: 143T, 250T, 271T, 2S9P, 298T. 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

Martin Sumner Sosmarin was born on March f, 1936 
in Boston, Massachusetts. He attended Brooklyn College 
until graduation with a B. k. in I960. In the fall of 
I960 he entered the School of Education at the City 
College of New York and received the M. S. degree in 1962. 
He continued graduate school at the University of Florida 
in 1962. As a student in the Department of Psychology he 
was granted a research assistant ship and then a clinician- 
ship at the University Counseling Center. 

In the fall of 19&5 he completed his internship at 
the Fairfield Hills Hospital in Newton, Connecticut. Since 
that time he has been employed as a staff psychologist at 
the Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown, Connecticut. 
Martin Sumner Rosmarin is a member of the Eastern 
Psychological Association. 



92 



Tills dissertation was prepared under the direction 
of the chairman of the candidate's supervisory committee 
and has been approved by all members of that committee. 
It was submitted to the Dean of the College of Arts and 
Sciences and to the Graduate Council, and was approved as 
partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of 
Doctor of Philosophy. 



April 25, 1966 



n 



9P/1- ( 

Dean,' CotMegaPoj! Arts and Sciences 



Dean, Graduate School 



Supervisory Committee: 
ChairiiaA 



L&J&£&>\ 




j Kjty ACLA^L^ 












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